Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Thousands of early voters cast their ballots in Florida's contentious primary election

First-time voter Christopher Kline, 18, fills out his ballot at the Hernando County Supervisor of Elections Office on Wednesday.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

First-time voter Christopher Kline, 18, fills out his ballot at the Hernando County Supervisor of Elections Office on Wednesday.

TALLAHASSEE — At least 200,000 Florida voters have gone to the polls to take advantage of the state's two-week early voting period in this year's contentious primary election.

Local elections officials predict that early voters will make up 30 percent of all voters in the primary. Overall early voting turnout is expected to reach 517,000, which is based on projections that 20 percent of Florida's 8.6 million registered Democrats and Republicans will vote.

Thousands of additional early votes are also expected to arrive by absentee ballot. Early voting ends this weekend.

The number of voters who get a head start on the primary this year is slightly higher than in 2006, the last midterm election that also featured an open governor's race, said Brenda Snipes, Broward County supervisor of elections. The reason for the increase in early voting, she said: convenience and confidence.

"Candidates and issues drive voters to the polls, but convenience drives voters to vote early," she said.

That's what brought Carol Ann Jackson of Brooksville and her husband to the Hernando County Government Center midday Wednesday. "We always vote early," she said. "We avoid the crowds."

At Broward's Southwest Regional Library precinct, where nearly 1,600 early voters have cast ballots, registered Democrat Roseanne Herring said she votes early because she doesn't want to take the chance of being unable to vote on Election Day.

Early voting is also the best way to avoid registration problems or showing up at the wrong precinct, said Ion Sancho, Leon County's supervisor of elections. Unlike Election Day when voters must cast their ballot at their home precinct, during early voting state law allows voters to go to any of their county's early voting sites, he said.

"If you run into a problem and you early vote, you've got days to fix it," Sancho said. "If you run into a problem on Election Day, you have a provisional vote and have to fix it in two days."

Shirley Harris of Jacksonville recalls watching as African-American voters were turned away from the polls in the 2000 election when their names had been removed from the voter rolls.

"I've been coming in ever since they started opening the polls for early voting," she said, after voting at a Duval County's elections office on Monday. "I want to make sure my vote counts."

Florida's botched 2000 election, which spawned the infamous presidential recounts and prompted major election reforms, was also the catalyst for the 2002 law that opened the door to early voting and lifted requirements that voters give a reason for requesting an absentee ballot.

Since then, other states have followed Florida's lead, and the percent of voters in the country who take advantage of early voting laws has increased about 50 percent each election year, said Paul Gronke, a political science professor at Reed College in Oregon and an expert on early voting.

"The reforms were intended to address perceived problems, avoid Election Day pressure and the last-minute crisis atmosphere," he said.

Georgia followed and adopted similar laws in 2004 and Ohio did the same in 2006.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, early voting hasn't led to higher voter turnout, but it has "taken a lot of the burden off Election Day," said Jerry Hollard, Duval County supervisor of elections.

"If you wait until the last 30 minutes of the day to vote and you're in the wrong precinct you may not have enough time."

Unlike the 2008 presidential race, when 50 to 60 percent of the votes cast for the general election were done by early voting, this year voters have not had to wait in long lines to cast a ballot.

Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley expects voter turnout to be higher than the 20 percent turnout during the 2006 primary — but not by much.

He expects that many voters haven't made up their minds and are hesitating about casting their ballots as a result.

"You may have Election Day be a deciding factor in a lot of these races," he said.

Contributors to this report were: Amy Sherman and Sergio Bustos of the Miami Herald, Steve Bousquet, Andy Boyle, Barbara Behrendt, Justin George, Jodie Tillman and Erin Sullivan of the St. Petersburg Times.

By the numbers | Early voting

Pasco County
(as of Wednesday)

• Early votes: 5,909

• Absentee ballot requests: NA

• Absentee ballots returned: NA

Pinellas County
(as of Tuesday)

• Early votes: 1,500

• Absentee ballots mailed: 244,280

• Absentee ballots returned: 61,861

Hillsborough County
(as of Wednesday)

• Early votes: 14,809

• Absentee ballot requests: 69,201

• Absentee ballots returned: 25,084

Thousands of early voters cast their ballots in Florida's contentious primary election 08/18/10 [Last modified: Thursday, August 19, 2010 1:10am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash

    Accidents

    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  3. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  4. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle

    World

    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  5. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators

    National

    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.